Everything You Need to Know About Smudging

by Rebecca McCusker March 16, 2019
ReadEverything You Need to Know About Smudging Photo by Heather Ford

When my mother moved into her new house, she felt like it was a brand-new start. As a housewarming gift, I gave her a couple of bundles of lavender and sage, and as she held the delicious-smelling bundles up to her nose, she acted bemused.


“We can do this together,” I said. “It’s a smudge stick. You’re supposed to burn it. It bans evil spirits and brings good energy into your house! It also smells amazing.”


Now, if there’s anything my mom believes in, it’s spirits. But, she wasn’t sure if smudging was going to work. “I’m going to burn the house down!” she proclaimed.


Smudging is an ancient ritual that helps ban evil spirits and energy from a space or person. The cleansing smoke chases away the bad, making way for the good. And, if done right, it can be a breath of fresh air for your home.


The origins of smudging

For centuries, smudging has been a sacred ritual for indigenous peoples across the American continent. According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, the term “smudging” is an English word, but the practice itself is indigenous. Native Americans use sacred herbs and medicines in rituals meant to heal, to carry prayers to the Creator, and to help gain spiritual protection and blessings. Smudging is often an integral part of these rituals.


In fact, smudging has a rocky historical past. Colonization stamped out many indigenous religious practices, including smudging, and ever since, it’s been an uphill battle for Native Americans to be able to carry out their spiritual practices in peace. That’s why it was such a feat for Saint Peter’s Hospital in Helena, Montana, to open a Culture Room, where Native American patients and families can cleanse a person of negative energy through smudging.


If you’re interested in smudging, the best thing to do is find a local indigenous organization that can help you start smudging with the correct mindset.


Common herbs for smudging and their uses

Native Americans have always called on the spirits of plants to cleanse a space or person from evil spirits. Some of the most powerful herbs are ethically sourced sage, cedar, rosemary, sweetgrass, and lavender. These herbs have been used by native cultures for centuries as medicines and are often used to purify, cleanse the body of negative energies, and alleviate health conditions—from emotional to physical maladies.


Studies show that the aroma of lavender reduces anxiety and improves mood. Rosemary and lavender have been shown to improve cognition. Sage has been shown to be a powerful antibacterial that has the potential to stave off disease, lower inflammation, and may even have tumor-shrinking properties.


How to smudge your home

Here’s the lowdown on how to cleanse your home of negativity and invite positive energy and love.


You will need:

  • A smudge stick or a bundle of sage
  • A lighter
  • A smudge stick holder (it’s very common to use an abalone shell)
  • A smudging fan, often made of feathers


Smudging is an ancient ritual that demands respect. Be sure to give it the time it deserves. Set aside at least 15 minutes to smudge properly. Don’t be in a hurry! Do this practice mindfully and with intention. According to Robert Gallegos, a Native American traditional healer, this is a good time to set your intention and ask the Creator to use this session for good, positive outcomes.


Next, light the tip of your smudge stick. Once it begins burning, place it in the fire-proof holder, grab your smudging fan, and walk to the entryway of your home, fanning the cleansing smoke toward yourself to cleanse negative energy.


Then, walk around your home, fanning the smoke as you go, asking the Creator to bestow love and positive energy in every room of the house.


When you’re done, be sure to place the embers in a safe place, where they can burn down without causing a fire hazard.


When to smudge

You can smudge anytime you’d like to encourage positive energy to flow freely in your life. But, if you need a bump in confidence and blessings, it’s always a good idea to smudge when you first move into a new home or when you start anything new. Smudge yourself before heading into a job interview or for your first day at the new office. New beginnings are a great time to smudge because it allows you to get started in a positive mindset and cleanses you of all negative energy.


You can also smudge when something bad happens. Feeling stressed and anxious? Just lost your job? Got in a fight? Feel a sickness coming on? Time to break out the cleansing herbs.


All in all, smudging is a great way to connect yourself with centuries-old traditions and to invite love, cleansing, healing, and positive energy into your home. Gather together with some loved ones, take a few moments of gratitude, and let the good vibes flow!


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